Counter-parenting: when the Ex does everything he can to sabotage your parenting efforts


​In this article, I want to vent about the different parenting styles – co-parenting, parallel parenting, and counter-parenting – and help you find a clear point of view towards your toxic Ex and other outsiders.

You’ve probably heard of “co-parenting.” It’s the quintessential ideal – both parents working together on the same page to raise their child.

Co-parenting is virtually the must-have in a functioning family – and if it’s not, I think it’s the precursor to separation.

However, I have never understood why co-parenting is so vehemently demanded by the instances and authorities of separated parents.

Clearly, I see that this is the ideal under which a child should grow up – clear lines, clear values, clear boundaries, and clearly with the one goal of helping the child grow into a resilient, happy adult.

I am convinced that parents who live the basic premise of co-parenting – same values, same beliefs, and same boundaries – simply do not separate. And if they do, these cases never end up in family court.

(You want to prove to me that this is not true? Then please leave a comment below. Merci!)

I can only hope that the child welfare offices and courts are not getting so stupid to send highly conflicted parents (yes, if you read this blog and otherwise feel so attacked by my topics, you are one of them!) to various mediations with the ultimate goal that co-parenting is finally realized.

Tell me, how is that supposed to work?

How is that supposed to work, please?

How, then, is a malignant, toxic, mentally disturbed parent supposed to be “turned around” in a mediation or counseling series?

How can values and one’s own convictions and world views be aligned by such people in conversations?

When there’s a person sitting across from you who actually has a completely different agenda and thus thwarts the goal of mediation?

  • Who does not value the other?
  • Who does not respect the other in their individuality?
  • Who does not see what he himself has done wrong?
  • Who can’t stand being criticized?
  • Who is not at all concerned for the child, but with winning, no matter what the cost?

Since I work as a coach for mothers with toxic Ex partners, I always look at only one side in my articles – that of the toxic narcissistic child father. But everything I write, of course, also applies when the opposite is the case.

So, to put it simply, we have one side that’s doing the bossing, and one side that’s desperately trying to make peace.

In this case, the latter are “my” mothers.

In high-conflict separations, I have never heard of even one mediation that worked.

It is precisely because the parents cannot agree that the family courts are called upon to make a decision! If they send the parents back into the colorful circle of the “helper” system, it is only a sad and senseless attempt to stall for time and to postpone an urgently needed decision.

Well, at least a lot of money will be hustled from the people. It also keeps the economy going.

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What would a functioning co-parenting system look like in the everyday upbringing of separated parents?

Both parents each maintain the same rituals and boundaries in their homes. The child always goes to bed at the same time, watches TV at the same time or has the same media time, the same rhythms of sports and games and amusement or a similar amount of sweets available.

If the child messes up, the parents step up in unison and provide a common, strong railing for the child to hold on to and orient himself.

If the child celebrates successes, he or she is also rewarded and encouraged in a certain way.

The foundation for all actions of parents are common values that have been previously agreed upon and established.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t make any difference where the child is – he or she always knows with crystal clarity what he or she is allowed to do and what he or she should not do, and can use this as a guide.

That gives immense security.

For my affected mothers, this is exactly the ideal they want for their child. And what they long for so desperately! Not infrequently, they hope for exactly that from the prescribed mediation sessions: that the toxic Ex will finally see what is best for the child.

But alas!

The Ex, on the other hand, hears only the imagined subtext in such conversations: “I want you to do what I think is right because it’s the right thing to do!” and responds with:

“Nope. You don’t get to tell me anything!”

Especially when the child is still very young, this can be extremely nerve-wracking for the mother. Does the child brush his teeth regularly? Doesn’t it get too much candy or too much media time too early? What is a 7-year-old supposed to do with a smartphone? Why does the child always run around in rags and clothes with holes – was there no money left for new clothes for the child after the Mercedes?

And she is famously stuck at one end of the narcissistic energy supply.

The Ex at least is happy about every outraged message and can enjoy finding new arguments why you are weak and helpless. Or just a mother hen.

And will always give you one back.

My recommendation is therefore for you:

Introduce parallel parenting

Now this is a bit misleading – parallel parenthood does not have to be officially proclaimed and introduced at all.

It is an attitude.

Parallel parenting means that his rules apply in his house and yours in yours.

  • The child gets more sweets with him – or with you? Don’t.
  • The child gets more access to media at his – or your – house? OK.
  • The child gets more or less salad at his – or your – house? Doesn’t matter.
  • The child gets to roughhouse more with him? You provide peace and balance.

And so on and so forth.

No email to him with instructions what he has to do.

No submissive message, what he should please reconsider, for the good of the child.

Everyone does his thing.

What an enormous relief do you think it can be for you to let go here!

This relief is immediately noticeable in your interaction with the child – guaranteed!

Do you want to feel confident about managing child hand-offs with your toxic ex?


And the child? Won’t they go nuts?

You may not believe it at first, but children learn very well to navigate both parenting worlds quickly.

Of course, they will try to play one parent off against the other from time to time:

“I’m allowed to do that with Dad, though!”

Then it depends on how important your values and parenting style are to you. If you have only set limits “because others say so”, then you will react rather shakily and then you open the door to further discussions with the child.

Therefore: Set clear boundaries and stand by them.

A very nice response to this would be, for example:

“I’m happy for you, dear. Different rules apply here.” To do this, embody a calm presence that signals to the child that there is no point in getting into a fight with you.

Of course, children grow and with them the boundaries. There are tighter limits with a toddler than with a teenager. But you’ll get to know that in time and can trust your empathy.

Important feature of functioning parallel parenting: No judgment!

However, parallel parenting will only bring you and your child emotional balance if you are careful not to criticize and judge your ex’s parenting style in front of your child.

So no open criticism of the customs in the house of the Ex!

Letting go really means letting go! So also any emotional evaluation and indignation.

Please do yourself a favor.

Letting go really means letting go! So also any emotional evaluation and indignation.

Please do yourself a favor.

You can’t change the manner in which he brings up your child anyway. And if you get upset in front of the child, you will only make him insecure.

Yes, parallel parenting could really be our holy grail, if there weren’t a fly in the ointment: the toxic Ex.

Because he will rather not adhere to the above maxim and will continue to spray his poison over your parenting practices, even if you try your best to keep the energy at an emphatically low level.

This is called counter-parenting.

Counter-Parenting: When Your Ex Does Everything to Sabotage Your Parenting

“Mommy says Fortnite is only for 14 and up?” “Come on! Come on, let’s play a round!” – To the seven-year-old.

“Mommy wants us to practice English this weekend.” – “Oh come on, you can do that already. I got bad grades in English back then too, it’s just a stupid vocabulary test.”

He berates or ridicules your parenting style. He insults you and devalues you. He blames you for everything and lies at every opportunity.

Mind you, not in front of you, but first and foremost in front of the child.

It doesn’t get any worse than this.

Depending on which goals he is pursuing – for example, to reduce the child support, to collect it himself or even to save it completely (via alternating residency model, for example) – the child is used and manipulated so that he also achieves his goal.

If the child is to live completely with him, he will do everything he can to draw the child to him – and this can only be done by making the world, the values and the attitude of the mother miserable.

(Voice from offstage: “And you want to convert someone like that in a mediation? Ha!”)

What’s the best way to deal with counter-parenting from your ex?

How do you best deal with counter-parenting by the Ex?

First of all, document such obvious counter-parenting sabotages when you are in the court clinch. After all, he’s not allowed to do that.

The more your toxic Ex paints a picture of you that doesn’t match you at all, the more you need to find your true self and live authentically every day.

Your child will be able to feel the difference, don’t worry!

Yes, it’s a lot of inner work!

But you don’t have to do it all in one day.

Every day you will get one step further if you know the general direction.

Every day you develop further if you can accept impulses and trust that you are on the right path – because you always are if you stay in the light.

It is important to me that you understand that you cannot change him – just as you cannot change all other people.

People can only change themselves.

Just like you can change yourself.

If you don’t bury your head in the sand, but go into inner work, you will do much more for your child than you know.

You give your child a very special gift to grow up with: a mother who shows him day by day how to go from a difficult life crisis into the light and to always orientate himself to it.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

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